James Rodriguez

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Bayern suddenly walking wounded prior to Liverpool match

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With Liverpool set to host Bayern Munich on Tuesday in midweek Champions League action, the German giants are suddenly looking at a number of forced changes when they take on the Reds.

The latest injury came in the dying minutes of Bayern’s 3-2 win over Augsburg in Bundesliga play on Friday, as brace-man Kingsley Coman was forced off after Bayern had used all its substitutes. Coman had to be helped off the pitch, and the fear is that he could miss significant time.

The 22-year-old French international is electric when at full strength, but has been troubled by injuries during his time at Allianz Arena. He was plagued by knee problems in his first seasons there, and his left ankle is now the main culprit. Coman saw his season come to an early close right about this time a year ago thanks to ligament trouble in his left ankle, forcing him to miss the rest of the season and the first three months of this season before returning in early December. Now, it seems the troubles are cropping up again in the same spot.

Bayern boss Niko Kovac said after the match that, “It does not look good,” adding, “we’ll have to investigate it tomorrow to find out more.” Should Coman be forced out for any length of time, he would add to the growing list of important players missing for Bayern on Tuesday.

Thomas Muller is suspended after earning a straight red card for a high boot in the final group stage match against Ajax, a damaging loss that saw Muller handed a two-match suspension to keep him out of both legs against Liverpool. Arjen Robben is also out, having been out since early December – oddly enough the same match that saw Coman return – thanks to thigh trouble. While Robben is close to a comeback, he is not fit and has been ruled out of the first leg. Finally, midfielder Corentin Tolisso has been out with an ACL tear since the second league match of the season, and while that’s been in the cards for months, it bears repeating once the depth starts to wear away.

Manuel Neuer has also just returned from a thumb injury, and while he made it through the Augsburg match unscathed and will be ready to suit up against Liverpool, the whole of the Bayern defense looked shaky at times on the counter. Augsburg picked its spots perfectly, scoring 15 seconds into the match and then again before the half-hour mark. The hosts completed an outstanding nine of 10 individual take-ons in the match, finding openings on the break. The Bayern back line was solid in the air, which should give them something to savor from the league victory.

That win was the team’s ninth victory in its last 10 Bundesliga matches, a blistering run that followed a very poor first three months to the campaign.

Without Muller, Coman, and Robben on Tuesday, James Rodriguez and Franck Ribery could see time, as could former Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry who has been a contributing squad player of late while he navigates his own thigh and groin problems.

Transfer rumor roundup: James to Spurs, Martins to Newcastle

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Tottenham Hotspur reportedly want more than $100 million to sell Christian Eriksen to Real Madrid, but Los Galacticos have something else in mind to lower the price.

Spurs would get Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez as part of a deal, says AS, though the player’s star has fallen in recent years.

[ MORE: Barca lands De Jong ]

James has been on loan at Bayern Munich for a year and a half, and has played more under Niko Kovac. He missed six matches with a knee injury, but has three goals in nine Bundesliga appearances this season. It’s better than that, actually, as he has three goals and one assist in the matches which saw him on the field for more than a dozen minutes.

Would James plus cash be enough? Rodriguez is seven months older than Eriksen.

Newcastle has been linked with a pair of loan moves, with The Chronicle saying Mike Ashley sanctioned both during a weekend meeting with Rafa Benitez.

The manager had been reported as ready to walk away from the club if the Magpies hierarchy could not provide two players to his relegation battle.

Antonio Barreca and Gelson Martins are both starving for playing time at AS Monaco and Atletico Madrid, and Newcastle is looking moves which include the chance for permanent summer purchases.

Martins was linked as a possible swap piece in an Alvaro Morata deal, but he’d be a far more important part of Newcastle. The 23-year-old Portuguese playmaker only has 224 league minutes for Atleti, but scored 10 goals and registered nine assists for Sporting Lisbon last season.

The 23-year-old Barreca has struggled at both Torino and Monaco after a strong debut season in 2016-17.

— We’ve saved perhaps the best for last: If Chelsea doesn’t want to sell Callum Hudson-Odoi to Bayern Munich, do you believe they’d let the youngster stay in the Premier League. Bild is reporting that Liverpool is trying to bring the 18-year-old to Anfield.

Bayern tops Hoffenheim 3-1 to pull within a game of the top

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Bayern Munich put the pressure on Borussia Dortmund on the top of the Bundesliga table with a 3-1 road victory at Hoffenheim on Friday behind two goals from Leon Goretzka.

The midfielder took his tally to four goals on the season with the brace, striking just past the half-hour mark on a deflected near-post strike and following that up with a goal just seconds before the break, finishing off a ruthless counter-attack.

Goretzka, who arrived from Schalke this past offseason on a free transfer, has been a vital part of the Bayern midfield, appearing in 15 of their 18 Bundesliga matches and starting 12. The pair of goals are his first since late October in the win over Mainz.

Bayern dominated the match for long stretches of play, and while Goretzka’s opener came via a heavy deflection that left Oliver Baumann’s near post disappointingly unguarded, it would be unfair to say Bayern didn’t deserve the lead, owning a 13-1 shot advantage at the time. Even Goretzka’s deflected effort came off the rebound of Robert Lewandowski’s powerful header that required a stellar Baumann save to parry.

Goretzka’s second was a vicious and swift counter-attack that left Hoffenheim picking up the pieces. Off a Hoffenheim corner, Bayern took the ball and broke down the left and David Alaba delivered a fabulous cross that Goretzka just reached with an outstretched foot to poke home.

While Hoffenheim scored on a counter of its own, Bayern killed off the game with a third deep into the second half as Lewandowski got behind defender Benjamin Hubner and poked home Thomas Muller’s cross. It all came from a wonderful flick over the top by James Rodriguez who returned from a knee injury to play his first 11 minutes since early November.

The win pushes Bayern within three points of leaders Borussia Dortmund who have a tough road visit to RB Leipzig. That match features Americans Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic on opposite sides as fourth hosts first in a critical Bundesliga meeting.

USMNT can do little to slow down prolific Colombia

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A young, hilariously overmatched U.S. men’s national team put forth a mostly encouraging performance against a star-studded Colombia side en route to a 4-2 defeat in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday.

[ WATCH: James gives Colombia lead over USMNT with beauty ]

Dave Sarachan’s record in 12 months as interim head coach now stands at 3W-3D-3L.

Colombia threatened early and often, from the opening five minutes onward, when Antonee Robinson and John Brooks were beaten by Santiago Arias on the edge of the USMNT’s penalty area. Arias glided past the left-sided duo and delivered a delightful cross to Radamel Falcao near the penalty spot. Fortunately for goalkeeper Zack Steffen, Falcao fired over the crossbar and the Yanks were off the hook.

The pressure finally paid off in the 36th minute (WATCH HERE). Rodriguez curled the ball from a seemingly impossible distance outside of Steffen’s right-hand post and nestled it into the upper-90 from the opposite side of the penalty area. It was a goal that reminded us of the world class talent Colombia possessed.

For all of Colombia’s dominance and control exuded in the first half, Los Cafeteros failed to make the USMNT pay with a second goal — for a time. Five minutes into the second half, they paid the price themselves.

Antonee Robinson had all day down the left flank before floating a lofted ball into the box, where Davinson Sanchez got the slightest of touches with his head, but nowhere near enough to send it clear of danger. Acosta read the flight of the ball the entire way and arrived to the six-yard box with split-second timing to make it a 1-1 game.

[ UEFA Nations League: Portugal win again without Ronaldo ]

They paid again three minutes later, when Wood split two defenders to get on the end of Tim Weah’s deftly played, inch-perfect through ball to the penalty spot. Wood needed — had time for — just one touch to hit it hard and low past Ospina inside his left-hand post. 2-1 to the USMNT.

The lead was extraordinarily short-lived, though. Arias got to the end line and cut the ball back toward the penalty spot for Carlos Bacca. With every defender’s momentum taking them toward the end line, Bacca peeled away from every blue shirt and had plenty of time and space to send his first-time shot past the outstretched hands of Steffen to make it 2-2.

The draw was beginning to look attainable — perhaps likely, even — until Colombia struck with a lethal counter-attack directly resulting from a USMNT set piece. Brooks was the USMNT player farthest up the field when Rodriguez booted the ball out of his own penalty area, springing Juan Quintero one-on-one in the open field. Falcao made the hard run through the center of the field to get into the box. No one went with him, and the finish was simple as could be for a player of his caliber.

As if Rodriguez’s opening goal didn’t provide enough of the wow factor for an overwhelmingly pro-Colombia crowd, Bayern Munich’s somewhat maligned superstar set up Miguel Borja for another moment of absolute class in the 79th minute. A simple chipped ball over the top provided a stage for Borja’s acrobatic finish to complete the scoring and the rout.

Three things from the USMNT’s 4-2 loss to Colombia

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The United States men’s national team took the pitch in Tampa without Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams.

[ MORE: MLS, Liga MX eye merge deal? ]

They still found ways to entertain.

Weah and Wood for the Win (or at least the lead)

Cheers to Bobby Wood, the sometimes maligned but often productive Hawaii-born forward of Hannover 96.

Wood broke up the play that started the USMNT’s second goal, carrying the ball before being fouled.

The play continued onward until PSG young buck Timothy Weah dribbled up the left of the pitch and played a perfectly-weighted ball into the path of Wood, who hauled his body almost 100 yards over the course of the goal.

The aforementioned James principle also applies to Weah, 18, who stuck around PSG instead of accepting a loan offer. He gets his chance to shine with the USMNT, and the dividends were very much there.

Better from Robinson

Less than inspiring — and that’s being nice — in last month’s friendlies, Antonee Robinson was a different man against Colombia.

There were still plenty of errors in defense, but the Everton youngster, currently on loan to Wigan Athletic, was a lively part of both possession and attack from his left wingback spot for the USMNT on Thursday.

At 21 years old, that’s fairly forgivable.

Composed and electric, the 21-year-old’s cross provided an equalizer for Kellyn Acosta that honestly could’ve come from Bobby Wood. It was good enough service to provide a chance for two players to bury a match-tying goal.

As an aside, goal scorer Kellyn Acosta has been reborn for Colorado, and even the fondest of Jurgen Klinsmann supporters knew that the former manager’s shoe-horning of the midfielder at left back was A) wrong and B) just an acknowledgment that he should have a spot on the field.

International soccer: Where depth club players get their shine

International friendlies have the tendency to uncage beasts. The combination of world class talent and less organized teams, a symptom of the international game sickness, is enough to provide show-stoppers.

Enter James Rodriguez.

The 27-year-old has started less than half of Bayern Munich’s league games this season, but is the undoubted star for Los Cafeteros. His cutback on Kenny Saief — wyd after that, Kenny? — and beautiful curler around the reach of Zack Steffen were the things of dreams.

It probably should’ve been 2-0 thanks to James magic, but Matt Miazga slid to clear the ball off the goal line in the 41st minute.

James helped cue up Colombia’s third goal, too, sending a hopeful outside of the boot clearance 60 yards up field en route to the 3-2 advantage.

And his patient dribble in a phone booth was the direct assist for Miguel Borja’s terrific acrobatic goal. I mean, the composure…